Police look into 'suspicious people' in hunt for Aisling

BY CLIO FRANCIS AND FEILIDH O'DWYER
Last updated 20:35 07/10/2009

Toddler may have been abducted

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The investigation into the disappearance of West Auckland toddler Aisling Symes now includes interviewing known child sex offenders and profiling "suspicious people", the officer in charge of the inquiry says.

Two-year-old Aisling was last seen walking near her home in Longburn Rd, Henderson about 5.30pm on Monday.

Police say there is no evidence she has been abducted but they are treating it as more and more likely after searches for her have turned up nothing.

Inspector Gary Davey told Campbell Live police had been investigating the possibility of an abduction from the beginning of their inquiry, and had serious concerns for her safety.

"As time goes on and there's been no more sightings of Aisling, that investigation phase has taken more prominence, to the point where we have already begun interviewing, profiling suspicious people, people that have been convicted of these types of offences or have propensities for these types of offences."

Police were also looking at recently reported suspicious behaviour in the area to identify possible abduction suspects.

"There have been some reports of suspicious activity but I'm not prepared at this stage to say that it is linked or could possibly be linked, but we'll be looking through all those."

Mr Davey said police were "absolutely confident" they would have found Aisling if she'd fallen into water behind her home.

It was likely that the longer she had walked for, the more she would have been noticed by passing people and traffic.

There are 140 people working on the case, 90 of whom who would continue to search for Aisling.

An Asian woman seen talking to Aisling, who police described as "critical" to the investigation, has still not come forward.

She was described as being in her 30s, about 165cm tall with a medium build and long straight black hair.

Police said the woman was wearing a black crew neck top, with three-quarter length sleeves, three-quarter length blue jeans, black leather sandals and black socks, and had a black and grey medium sized dog on a lead. It is understood she was holding the young girl's hand.

Mr Davey said he had spoken with Aisling's parents - Anglea and Alan - today and they were "tremendously upset".

They were "realistic" about what could have happened to their daughter, he said.

"They have always known abduction was a possibility."

Aisling's five-year-old sister Caitlin seemed "to be coping well", Mr Davey said.

He was not sure if she fully comprehended the extent of the situation but said "she does know Aisling is missing".

He said they had widened their search and visited several "people of concern" in the area.

"It is safe to say we are profiling people that police know of, that we have concerns about."

They were also canvassing reports of suspicious behaviour in the Henderson area.

Police have extended the search areas and continue to use the dive team, police dogs and an Eagle helicopter in the search.

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People with information should call police on - 08004AISLING (0800 4247-5464).

PLEA FOR HELP

Earlier today, family spokesperson and Aisling's aunt Aithne Potts said her family was desperately worried about the little girl, who loves cheese, toast and strawberries.
 
"If you are the person who has my niece, we don't know why you wouldn't have told us. We don't understand why its been so long and we know nothing, so please tell us where she is. 
 
"We just want her home".
 
Mrs Potts asked that anyone who may know where the toddler is contact police.
 
Aisling is a bubbly, energetic little girl who loved to play with her dolls and dance, Mrs Potts said.
 
The toddler loves to eat, and the family thought she would probably eat any food offered to her.
 
Aisling is "a social little girl" who came from a big extended family and went to church so would probably be comfortable with other people.
 
"Its our feeling as a family that, were she to be taken in by a person, she may well be comfortable with them." 
 
Mrs Potts said the family wanted to thank people from all over the country who had offered them help.
 
She also asked that people continue to talk about the missing toddler and not assume that everybody had learned of her disappearance.
 
"We just are desperate to know anything about our little girl."

Meanwhile, police have widened their search for Aisling and are now focusing their efforts on the possibility she could have been abducted.

Mr Davey said earlier today that, given the extensive and thorough nature of the search, he was becoming more and more alarmed that the two-year-old had not been found.

"Police must turn their mind more and more to the possibility that she may have been abducted."

Aisling vanished on Monday evening as her parents cleared a section in the suburb of Henderson.

Searchers were confident the toddler was not in the immediate search area which had now been fully combed twice, Mr Davey said.

CHASING DUCKLINGS

Aisling "liked the water" and had been chasing ducklings just before she disappeared.

Last night, Cherie Tahitahi, who lives next to the house, said the creek behind the house was not fenced off.

Mrs Tahitahi raced next door when she heard the child's mother, Angela Symes, cry out, "Aisling, Aisling".

"The mother was panicking, she was really hysterical."

A relative, Erika Lee, said: "They just turned their back for one minute and she was gone."

- with NZPA

- Stuff

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